Book Review: Submerged

Three decades ago, I went diving alone, a big No-No, to check my gear and clear my head. There was a yellow school bus in the lake that had been stripped of its benches and windows: a fun place to hang out. The roof was right at 30-feet or so. I could lay there on my back—tank removed and resting, valve down, beside me—and watch my bubbles rise. I could focus on my breathing and, based on the sound, the only sound down there, make adjustments for Yoga-like meditation.


That day, a bright red Autumn leaf floated on the surface and, high up from there, three big fluffy white clouds seemed hung like pictures on a bright blue sky.

The water and air were so crisp and still… then a small bass swam over and, next to it (but high up, of course), I noticed the thin chalk line of  a jet (on its way …to where?).

A few years later an injury sidelined my scuba diving hobby. I advertised the tank and regulator for sale, but kept the fins, mask and snorkel for “sightseeing” and occasional trips down at the dock to clean the hull of my sailboat or retrieve a lost tool.

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My limited diving experience provided a “sights and sounds” background to Daniel Lenihan’s Submerged –the only book about underwater archeology that’s ever made me catch myself holding my hold my breath. A great book for the beach or book for the boat.

Subtitled Adventures of America’s Most Elite Underwater Archeology Team, it tells the true story of his career and exploits developing a new program and resource within the National Park Service: a thoughtful/scientific approach to surveying, preserving and sharing sunken assets while, when needed, also recovering bodies from very dangerous hard to reach places.

The emotional insights related to risk and death are as captivating as the adventures going deep and dark.

In addition to navigating creepy death traps including caves, wrecks and the rooms of a sunken power turbine, Lenihan and his people must successfully navigate the “Chutes and Ladders”-like matrix of governmental policy, funding and politics. The accounting of what all happens behind the scenes gives you a real appreciation for what they were able to achieve –with their lives literally “on the line” the whole way.

This is a keeper for the beach, boat or hammock. Not just for divers but also for riders of pool floats in blue rubber pools. Bring a flashlight and some spare air.

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— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill